LUCK AND DEATH

DECEMBER 11, 2011

So anyway folks came out this week to puzzle around the trunks of their cars to locate long unused ice scrapers this week as commuters found unaccustomed frost packing the window glass of their cars in the early AM.

Here and there houses put out their strings of holiday lights and lawn installations. The inflateable Santas and the robotic reindeer, except that in some neighborhoods homeowners felt the need to attach burgler alarms to their lawn orniments, as theft has become too common now-a-days.

Sister Beatrice has been running around like mad with her black skirts flying all over the grounds of the Church of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint trying to get the annual Xmas pageant and the banquet together, and Father Danyluk has been of minimal help, minimal help. At least that is how Sister Beatrice sees it, however Father Danyluk saw that the chorus was wanting of good tenor voices, so he dropped on in with a bottle of good madeira to his friend, Pastor Nyquist at the Lutheran Immanuel church to borrow the loan of a few good voices for the night, and so rounded out things quite nicely without Sister Beatrice being in any way the slightest bit the wiser.

". . . praise god but she is daffy as a Disney cartoon. . ."

"Honestly, Father, everything is all this way and that! What on earth shall I do about Sister Agnes and the caterer on Saturday and all the decorations in the hands of that Sister Cicatrice who is a nimbus brain -- praise god but she is daffy as a Disney cartoon -- and then there is the butter . . .".

"Sister Beatrice," Father Danyluk said. "Just chill, for god's sake. It will all get done somehow. It always does."

"O! And the rolls are in the oven!" Sister Beatrice jumped right up and ran out the door.

"O for Pete's sake," Father Danyluk said.

Some people just cannot leave be and must needs be making a fuss at every moment until every production becomes an opera of vast proportions when just letting it all go becomes the best thing.

Frantic scurries of the mice flitted in shadows

It was the night of the Full Harvest Moon, and the Staff had just finished putting the Annual Island Life Holiday CD project to bed. This year, the 13th Issue was a Deluxe 2 CD set with 90 minutes of stuff. While the Editor reviewed the liner notes galley sheets Denby went out into the garden as the chill dew began beading on the wall of jasmine out along the Old Fence. Frantic scurries of the mice flitted in shadows beneath the overhangs and his breath billowed in clouds on the frosty air.

He remembered how years ago, while on a solo tour, he had been heading north out of Helena when his Mustang had stumbled, coughed and died up on the hill above the town and he had stepped out into the lightless chill above the distant lights of the town below, the immense wheel of stars revolving above, each pinprick sharp as a pinnacle of ice.

This place as good a place to die as any. Tonight was a good night.

Car dead. No cell phone. Miles from anyplace but someplace viewable from up there on the ridge road on a Sunday evening while the temperature dropped lower and lower. If he started walking right away,he might make the edge of town about sunrise, but he doubted that he would make it that far in this weather. The temperature probably stood about minus ten degrees at the moment. The radio said it would drop to minus thirty that night. His breath puffed out in the frigid air and hung in miniature clouds. It did not seem likely that anyone would be heading north from Helena, Montana at this time of night on a Sunday evening. He took out his harmonica and started a slow investigation of the lower registers until he stopped shivering from the cold and the stars burned merrily way up there in whatever place they enjoyed as a heaven as the temperature continued to drop.

He supposed he might last a little longer in the car. But he did not want to be found that way. Huddled.

This place as good a place to die as any. Tonight was a good night. As good as any other.

To his amazement a pair of headlights travelling up the hill pause and came to a stop on the shoulder just behind his Mustang.

"Beautiful spot to practice," said the driver, who turned out to be a country-western singer on the road to his own next gig. The man pushed back a large Stetson on his head. "But don't have time to jam right now. You need a lift?"

Salvation comes in unlikely forms, often unexpected, often undeserved.

The Editor, sitting in his chair in his cubicle remembered stumbling into camp, drenched in sweat and with soggy boots, his rifle useless from when he had thrown it down into the muck while wandering lost in the jungle away from his unit in a panic. He got away from the next man over when some enemy fire came in -- just a few bursts with everyone scattering this way and that, followed by endless hours of sloshing through a green, wet arbor with the taste of metal in his mouth, expecting to trip a wire or step on something any moment, green moss, green plants, green water, green butterflies hovering before his eyes.

He sat down on a log, thinking about life and swatting bugs, thinking this was a really stupid way to go, feeling more lost and more alone than he ever had. All around the sounds of the jungle resumed their stories, their chatter, now that some boob was no longer bashing his way around the place in circles.

Then, he heard the sound of Ray singing that stupid song entirely out of tune the way he always did, "I'm gonna take you higher". Goddammit Ray. Quite suddenly tromping in on dry land with the tents and the camo mesh hanging and someone saying, "Hey, where you been?" Saved. For now.

Xavier, Pahrump, Javier and Jose went out to hunt for the holiday tree in their usual semi-illegal manner. They hunted around the former Navy Base without success, but in coming back they spied a likely victim in a lot along the estuary next to a truck that seemed unwatched for the moment. In short order the crew tumbled back to the house with their captured tree in the bed of the flexible flyer red wagon and soon had the scraggly thing propped in the old washtub with a cinderblock base. Andre and Marlene drapped the fellow with torn aluminum foil, scrap plastic and Martini's home-made lights fashioned from cannibalized computer parts.

Each member of the household contributed orniments from his or her own private supplies. Suan hung bright foil-wrapped condoms from the Crazy Horse Saloon. Xavier and Jose hung papel picado, and Tipitina hung stars made from office paperclips.

Although some idiots had claimed the Great Recession had ended a year ago, or so, times remained harsh for all of them with little acknowledgement anything had changed for the better. They all felt grateful enough to have each other for the moment.

Because of the weather, all of them were sleeping in the cottage now, which was just as well for nobody could afford heat and all the extra bodies kept the place warm enough.

As folks turned in to their sleeping bags for the night, Andre and Marlene sat together with their arms around one another looking at the tree glittering by the light of the full moon as it streamed through the livingroom window, with little Adam snoring between them.

"That tree was a piece of luck," Andre said.

Marlene hugged Andre tight. "We're lucky. Things could be worse."

Andre looked out at the moon. "Who knows what will happen. Things are pretty bad right now."

"The Democrats sure dropped the ball," Martini said.

In response Marlene snuggled. "Eff it. Just let go. Let go of all of it."

Little Adam mumbled. "I'm glad you guys saved me." Then the boy turned over and went back to sleep.

"At the end of the day, we've got only ourselves," Adam said.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the California grasses of the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its own DIY journey to parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

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